DSK pleads not guilty as hotel maids vent their anger
Dominique Strauss-Kahn mounted his fightback yesterday against charges that he sexually attacked a hotel maid, pleading "not guilty" in a Manhattan court as lawyers clashed over claims that the woman consented.
The former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was met at the court by dozens of maids chanting "shame on you".
The 62-year-old, who is on $1m (€685,000) bail, was smiling and wore a crisp blue suit and tie, a transformation from the haggard figure he cut in court last month.
He was flanked by his millionairess wife, Anne Sinclair (62), who wore a dark blazer and skirt and looked refreshed by her stay at the $14m (€9.6m) townhouse where her husband is under house arrest and armed guard.
In a seven-minute hearing at New York Supreme Court, Mr Strauss-Kahn was read the seven charges relating to his alleged attack on the 32-year-old maid, who is set to give evidence in his trial.
He is accused of attempting to rape the Guinean mother of one, before forcing her to perform oral sex after she arrived to clean his suite at the Sofitel near Times Square. Prosecutors say medical tests support her allegations and that DNA from her clothing matches Mr Strauss-Kahn's.
Outside the court, lawyers traded blows over what is set to be the trial's central issue: whether the maid consented to a sexual encounter.
"It will be clear there was no element of forcible compulsion in this case whatsoever," said Mr Strauss-Kahn's attorney, Ben Brafman. "Any suggestion to the contrary is not credible."
"That is a lie," said Kenneth Thompson, for the maid, who condemned the "smear campaign against her".
The defence claims to have information that will "gravely undermine" her credibility.
Describing her as "a woman of dignity and respect", who suffered "a terrible sex assault", Mr Thompson said the maid would "tell the world what he did".
Judge Michael Obus asked Mr Strauss-Kahn if he understood he had "an obligation to be present", and could face further charges if he was not. "Yes," he replied.
Chants from the maids could be heard in the 13th-floor courtroom.
Mr Strauss-Kahn faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on charges including attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching.
Asked to enter his plea, Mr Strauss-Kahn told the court clerk, "not guilty".
The next date in the case at New York Supreme Court before Judge Michael Obus was set for July 18.
"When the evidence is in, it will be clear there was no forcible compulsion," Mr Brafman told reporters after the hearing.
But the maid's lawyer, Mr Thompson, said the notion that the 32-year-old "hard-working single mother" had consensual sex with Mr Strauss-Kahn was "preposterous".
"All of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's power, money and influence will not stop the truth of what he did to her in that hotel room from coming out," he said.
"She is going to come into this courthouse, get into that witness stand and tell the world what (he) did to her."
Mr Strauss-Kahn left the court, holding his wife's hand. The pair looked stoic as they strode to a black Ford SUV as hotel workers shouted at him and news photographers took pictures.
Yesterday's hearing marks the start of what could be lengthy legal proceedings.
Peter Ward, president of Local 6 of the New York Hotel Workers Union, was among those outside the court in solidarity with the maid.
"She's our sister and we support her," he said.
New York hotel worker Beverly Banton said she was once groped by a guest and that while the man was evicted from the hotel, security never called police. "Back then, they said to us, 'The guests come first'," she said. "There's a lot of people this happened to who didn't say nothing."
Until the New York arrest, Mr Strauss-Kahn had been expected to quit his IMF post for a different reason -- a bid to become the Socialist candidate for president of France. He had been a strong favourite to beat conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy at the polls next year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)